#232: Who Should Climb the Ladder?

How to Determine Who Is a Good Promotion Candidate

It is a rare manager, who, in the span of a career does not wonder how a boss or a peer got their current position.

Woman Ladder

Perhaps that is what led management guru Peter Drucker to say, “The attempt to find “potential” is altogether futile.” In his book, Management Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, Drucker goes on to say that trying to pick out good future managers in a field of candidates is less likely to succeed than just taking every fifth person in the organization.

These situations give us pause to think of Peter’s principle; “Everyone rises to their level of incompetence. The only reason our system does not collapse is that not everyone reaches their level of incompetence at the same time!”

Most managers want supervisors who will get the work done, who will find creative solutions to problems, who will save the company money, and who will develop employees to their fullest potential.

So how do you decide? How do you figure out amongst those fresh, eager faces who will ultimately be the best new supervisor, manager, executive?

While there are no guarantees with anyone, there are ways you can assess individuals to help make your decision of whom to promote the most intelligent one possible.

The assessment process is comprised of three basic steps;

  • Review the candidate’s work record.
  • Interview the candidate.
  • Interview the candidate’s internal and external customers.

This assessment process is complex and will require considerable effort to complete, but will yield supervisors more likely to succeed in their new careers.

Review the Candidate’s Work Record

The place to start evaluating the potential of a candidate is their current work record. The best reflection of what a person will do in the future is what they have done in the past.

Examining the following four areas will help make the first cuts:

1) Attendance record. Review the candidate’s attendance record. Look for consistency.

2) Prior performance reviews. Review the candidate’s prior performance reviews. A strong candidate will show continual improvement.

Look for consistency in their performance over time.

3) Steady growth in job skills. A strong candidate is one who continues to improve in their current job. They ask questions seeking to expand their knowledge of the business. They look for ways to improve that are beyond the scope of their current jobs.

4) Ability to get along with peers. A big part of the new supervisor’s job will be getting work done through others. A good indication of this ability is how they get along with their peers.

Interview the Candidate

If you have the responsibility of promoting someone to the supervisory level you need to make sure that they have the interest and the skills to do the job. The best way to do that, in addition to reviewing their work record, is to interview them for the job. (You wouldn’t offer a job to someone just from reading a resume, would you?)

The promotion interview can take place all at once or over a period of days. If you cover the following six elements, you will increase your chance of selecting the right person the first time.

1) Make sure the person is interested in supervision. It is not true that every individual who does good work in their jobs wants to be promoted. Do not make this assumption!

2) Explain reasons for the promotion. A promotion candidate needs to know why they are being considered for additional responsibility. Don’t assume that they know why. They may, but tell them anyway. In other words, discuss all the success criteria you have established for a supervisor and how this candidate meets those criteria.

3) Outline new responsibilities. To supervise effectively, one must be able to plan, organize, direct, and control work processes. This is significantly different than the worker who is responsible solely for the completion of a task. The candidate needs to understand and accept the responsibility for managing the people involved in the production of the work, as well as the work itself.

4) Determine their views on supervision. Spend some time with the candidate discussing their views about supervision. After all, a worker’s ideas about supervision have been molded mostly by the people that have supervised them. Ask how they view the role of supervisor as different from that of the worker. Ask what they consider as being good and bad characteristics of a supervisor and why.

5) Discuss to whom the new supervisor will report. In these days of matrix management, the question of who you report to is not as simple as it might once have been. The candidate needs to understand who they are accountable to and for what.

6) Discuss the people who will be the new supervisor’s responsibility. Remember, the supervisor is responsible for managing the people doing the work, so they need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of those who report to them.

Interview the Candidate’s Internal and External Customers

The best way to find out how the supervisor candidate works with people is to talk to their internal and external customers. The most obvious group is their peer group.

But many others can provide valuable insight into the potential of an individual. Talk to other people who have contact with the candidate like supervisors or workers in other departments. If your candidate has contact with customers or suppliers, ask for their feedback.

One Final Thought

The job of finding and developing talented supervisors will forever be a difficult task for management. Even the diligent manager who follows each of these guidelines is not guaranteed success. People are not always what they seem. People change. Businesses change. The person who is just right for the job this year may be inadequate in the next decade.

Nonetheless, it is up to you to separate the wheat from the chaff, and in doing so, find the supervisor that may one day become the president of the company.

If you are still having trouble deciding on a candidate, consider Paul’s instruction to Timothy regarding the selection of overseers (1 Timothy 3:2-4). In describing the characteristics of a good overseer, Paul used words like temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, and free from the love of money.

If you think about it, these are traits that should apply to all of us, all the time. Make it a point to review this list every morning. It will help keep you focused in the right direction.

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 5-page whitepaper entitled, Who Should Climb the Ladder? How to Determine Who is a Good Promotion Candidate.”

This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of how to determine who is a good promotion candidate.

You can download the whitepaper here: Who Should Climb the Ladder? How to Determine Who is a Good Promotion Candidate.”

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you struggled to make decisions about who to promote? What criteria did you find helpful?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Skills | Human Resource Development

#220: It Turns Out You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!

It turns out old dogs like me can learn a lot from the young crop of Gen Z students emerging from our college campuses.

Old Dog New Tricks

This was my fourth year teaching a class in Sales and Sales Management at Azusa Pacific University. This year’s class of 40 dwarfed last year’s class of 20 students and was equally divided between juniors and seniors.

Feedback from the students last year made it clear they wanted a diverse mix of teaching methods. Given their short attention span, hour-long lectures in a three-hour class just didn’t cut it. Variety is not only the spice of life; it is absolutely necessary for a classroom of Gen Z’s!

My goal this year was to really mix it up by making the class far more experiential and less dependent on lecture:

  • To create a simulated workplace team environment, I divided the class into eight teams of five students each based on their Strengthfinders results. Students were assigned to groups so that each of the four Strengthfinder Leadership Domains (Executing, Influencing, Relationship, and Strategic Thinking) were represented in each group.
  • The teams worked together on two major assignments: creating a sales training manual for a company of their choosing and teaching their fellow students by presenting the contents of one chapter of our text.
  • Role play exercises in six of our 13 sessions were designed to give the students an opportunity to practice selling skills in the classroom.
  • In one class session, students were required to present key learnings to the class gleaned from a published article on sales.
  • Three sales training videos demonstrating elements of the sales process were used to show how selling skills discussed in class came to life in a selling situation.
  • Short quizzes were given covering the material in each chapter every week. Scheduling quizzes as we covered material ensured that students stayed up to date and eliminated the need to “cram” for a midterm or a final exam.
  • Students were each required to write six short case study papers over the course of the semester.

Overall, the objective of this mix of group and independent work assignments was to give students an opportunity to learn while also developing their presentation skills with the support of their peers.

What I Learned from Their Feedback

I give my students a feedback form during our last class session asking three questions 1) What was helpful that we should keep doing, 2) What was unhelpful that we should stop doing, and 3) What would you do differently?

1) What should we keep doing? The interactive exercises, especially the role plays, were a hit with the majority of the students. Students also liked having the weekly quizzes following the lecture because it helped reinforce what they learned that week.

2) What should we stop doing? Long (45-60 minute) lectures were mentioned several times as pushing the limits of their attention span. Allowing student groups to teach a chapter was not as effective as I’d hoped because other students felt they didn’t learn as much. Finally, the training videos were somewhat dated and failed to impress this YouTube generation.

3) What would you do differently? The class had a number of excellent suggestions for improving the learning environment in the class. Several students thought a guest speaker who was currently in a sales role would be a great addition to the learning experience. Doing even more role plays and doing them in small groups rather than as a whole class was suggested to allow more people to get more practice. Finally, several students suggested in-class discussions of the case studies as a way of reinforcing what was taught in the text.

What I’ll Do as a Result

As always, the student’s feedback is a valuable tool for me to improve as a teacher and to develop a learning framework that will be beneficial for the majority of the students. My plans for next semester include:

  • Reducing the lecture time even more to allow more time for interactive role plays and class discussion.
  • Maintain the weekly quiz schedule and the requirement to write case studies.
  • Devote time during the class to discussion of the weekly case study.
  • Bring in a sales representative one week to teach the class and talk about their personal experiences.
  • Abandon the dated videos. I’ll look for something that is relevant to the material in the class with a higher production value.
  • Rethink the way the team projects are completed. Although it was intended to get them to work together, this group did most of their “teamwork” independently and then just assembled the results.

Lesson for Leaders

Peter exhorted believers to “…use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).

Leaders, to be effective, we need to learn and adapt to the changing environment. We need to stay on top of our game by using the gifts God has given us to serve others.

Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this year’s class is that every class is different. What worked well last year may not work well at all this year. Building relationships and engaging with the people in our organizations is the very best way to ensure that we are serving them well.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. What lessons about developing and leading people have you learned from others?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Skills | Human Resource Development

#219: Can Feedback Really Help Drive Growth in My Business?

If you want to see the effect of feedback, look at a child. Imagine the excited four-year-old who runs to her father to show off her most recent artistic achievement.

Feedback in Business

If you speak harshly, discussing the need to color within the lines and use the correct colors, you will see a child’s smile fade, enthusiasm will wane, and she will not be as likely to come running to show off her work in the future.

If, however, you tell her what a beautiful picture she has made and show her how if she colors slowly she can stay in the lines you will see a smile broaden as she runs off to create an even more beautiful masterpiece for her father.

Feedback with employees has the same effect; it will either build an employee up or decimate their spirit.

Constructive Feedback

All feedback should be constructive. It should be done in such a way that the employee is motivated to improve performance or continue to do excellent work.

Paul emphasized this point in Romans 15:1, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbor for his good, to build him up.”

Getting Started

Here are eight guidelines to help you develop and use your feedback skills more effectively:

1) Use Common Definitions and Simple Language

Make sure that you are using common definitions. Even the simplest words in our vocabulary have multiple meanings.

The more complicated your vocabulary, the more likely misunderstandings will occur. Be specific, be concise, and use simple terms to increase the effectiveness of your communication.

2) Avoid the Use of Garbage Words and Slang

Use of garbage words can add confusion to a conversation. Words like “hmm,” “uh-huh,” and grunts and groans convey different meanings depending on your tone of voice, your facial expressions, and your body language.

3) Be Observant

People usually use a fairly consistent set of verbal and non-verbal cues. I had one boss who was so tuned in to me that he could see the wheels turning in my head, and knew when I didn’t agree or when I had an idea. He said he could tell when I was thinking something over by my facial expressions, and when I had something to say because my posture changed. He was rarely wrong.

4) Behavior Versus the Person

The purpose of feedback is to improve employee productivity. Feedback for behavior that needs correction should be focused on the behavior, not the individual.

Jesus gives us an excellent example of providing feedback for the behavior rather than the individual in Matthew 26. The Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus when Peter boldly stepped forward and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Jesus said, “Put your sword back in its place for all who draw the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26:52).”

5) Feedback Timing

Feedback to reinforce or correct employee behavior is best when given as soon as possible.

Luke 19 provides an example of prompt feedback. The day after Jesus re-entered Jerusalem he went to the temple and found men selling. He did not put the matter on the agenda for the next disciples meeting. He immediately overturned the money changers tables and drove them out of the temple. As they departed, he said, “My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a ‘den of robbers’ (Luke 19:46).”

6) Spoken Versus Written

If the feedback you are giving is corrective, it should be verbal and in private. To make sure that future expectations of performance are very clear you should follow-up in writing.

Verbal praise for a job well done is nice, but the feeling usually fades after a few days. Written praise is more concrete, and it gives you the opportunity to publicize the employees’ success. Copy the written praise to the peer group and upper management. There’s nothing quite like getting a personal note from a senior manager who expresses appreciation for good work as a motivational tool.

7) Don’t Assume Understanding

Do you remember the phrase, “I know you think you understand what I said, but I’m not so sure that what you heard I what I meant?” People often nod agreement or say “I know exactly how you feel,” without really knowing how the other person feels, what frame of reference they’re coming from, etc.

Use your communications skills to ensure that what you think you heard is what the other person meant to say! At any point in a conversation asking questions is the best way to make sure that you heard correctly.

8) Sincerity

Contrary to popular belief flattery will not get you everywhere. People quickly see through insincere remarks. Always provide feedback that is sincere. Praise earned for hard work will always motivate more than the hollow flattery of praise for work that the employee knows is not up to standard.

One Final Thought

Feedback is like a powerful sports car, it is a pleasure to drive, but in the hands of a drunk, it is a lethal weapon.

Before you fire off that next missile chastising an employee, before you bring him or her into your office for a thorough tongue lashing, remember the purpose of feedback is to motivate the employee to improve performance. Employees will want to learn how to do a better job and will be motivated to do better if the feedback they receive from you is always timely, balanced, and constructive.

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, Motivate with Feedback—Build Your Business by Building Up Your Employees.”

This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of using feedback to motivate and build up your employees:

  • A definition of feedback appropriate for the business environment,
  • Types of feedback, and
  • Feedback as a motivational tool.

You can download the whitepaper here: Motivate with Feedback—Build Your Business by Building Up Your Employees.”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. What kinds of feedback have you received? Have there been times when you received feedback that was motivating or disheartening?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

Category: Skills| Management of Human Resources

 

 

 

 

#215: So You Want to Fight!

Handling Arguments in the Workplace

A four-year old fighting with a sibling over the use of a particular toy is expected. When an argument breaks out in the office over the use of equipment, who gets which sales territories, what business strategies are right, or any of the many other things that occur every day in the workplace the enlightened leader needs to know how to handle conflict.

Fight

Sources of Organizational Conflict

When emotions take control over reason hostility increases and hostility is the breeding ground for arguments.

James writes, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that do battle within you? You want something but cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight” (James 4:12).

The word “desires” comes from the root word for hedonism; the idea that pleasure is the chief goal of life. Our natural inner desires are focused mostly on ourselves; my ideas, my feelings, etc. According to James this inward focus on pleasing ourselves is what causes fights and quarrels.

Conflict Resolution

Here are four Biblical principles for dealing with workplace arguments:

  • Diffuse the bomb. Proverbs 29:22 says, “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.” You cannot begin to resolve an argument until tempers are cooled. To begin with, never tell an angry person not to be angry. Don’t lecture or talk down to the person. Ask questions, and listen. Empathize by repeating what has been said. Emotions run very high and are likely to rise at any point in the resolution process.
  • Get the facts. Don’t ever try to resolve an argument based on hearsay, opinion, or gossip. Deuteronomy reminds us, “One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Deuteronomy 15:19). Take the time to gather the facts of the situation directly from the individuals involved before making any judgments in the matter.
  • Confront in private. Praise in public, criticize in private. Whenever you are attempting to resolve a conflict the matter should be dealt with in private. Never, ever begin what looks like an “interrogation” on the factory floor in front of other workers. “Discuss the matter with him privately. Don’t tell anyone else, lest he accuse you of slander” (Proverbs 25:9-10). Jesus also offered instruction in this matter, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over” (Matthew 18:15).
  • Negotiate a resolution. There will be times when someone is clearly right and another wrong. But more often there will be shades of gray where there is some “rightness” on both sides. When this is the case, it is important to come to a negotiated resolution. Both sides need to agree on the outcome. In cases where someone has been emotionally hurt there needs to be confession and for­giveness.

When Negotiations Fail

Despite your best efforts, there will be situations and people with whom no settlement agreement can be reached. The Bible gives us clear direction for dealing with these situations:

Jesus said, “But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses’” (Matthew 18:­16). The use of neutral outside parties to deal with conflict resolution can be a very important part of your ability to reach resolution.

If the use of neutral parties fails to bring about a resolution to the conflict, then the relationship may need to be broken off. “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17).

In the workplace, this does not necessarily mean firing someone. It may mean that the person is taken off a work team, or receive some other sanction as is appropriate. While this may seem harsh, it can be the best thing for all concerned. If the individual finally recants, there may be an opportunity for true confession and forgiveness. This can lead to full restoration.

One Final thought

James continued his discussion on fights and quarrels saying, “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3).

Consider James’ admonition the next time you feel your temperature rising. Ask yourself, “Where is my focus right now? Is it on God and what He wants for my life? Or is my focus on me and what I want?” If you don’t have what you want perhaps it is because your focus is not on God.

Conflict in organizations may be inevitable. But decide today that no conflict will begin with you because you pushed God out of your life so you could focus on your selfish desires.

Bonus Whitepaper

This week’s post is excerpted from a 6-page whitepaper entitled, So You Want to Fight–Handling Arguments in the Workplace.”

This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of how to deal with arguments in the workplace plus:

  • 14 common reasons constructive discussions turn into destructive arguments, and
  • An example of conflict resolution from the life of Paul.

You can download the whitepaper here: So You Want to Fight–Handling Arguments in the Workplace.”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you had to deal with arguments in your workplace? What did you find was the most effective way to deal with them and bring resolution to the situation?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Skills | Management of Human Resources

 

#170: 7 Surprising Things I learned from My Gen Z Students

Stand aside Millennials, the Gen Z’s are coming! This year’s college graduating class marks the beginning of the wave of Gen Z students entering the workforce that will continue for the next fifteen years.

Gen Z Class of 2016

Gen Z kids grew up post 9/11 and lived through a recession that saw a quarter of American kids living in poverty. At the same time, mobile technology continued to expand. These and other factors contribute to the Gen Z’s being different in many ways from their Millennial predecessors.

As a result, leaders will need to be prepared. Forewarned is forearmed!

7 Surprising Things I learned from my Gen Z Students

I was invited to teach a class in sales and sales management at a local university this spring. Three years and they keep asking me back! Go figure!

My class this year was composed of 21 students; about half juniors and the rest seniors. All Gen Z’s! While outwardly they look a lot like prior classes of Millennials, I found there are a number differences.

  • They are screen-obsessed. Millennials grew up with chips in their cribs and got used to using three screens. Gen Z’s are even more screen dependent using an average of five screens: smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, and an i-Pad. A full 79% of Gen Z’s suffer distress when kept from their electronic devices!
  • They have the attention span of an excited puppy. Scratch that. Puppies have a longer attention span! Studies show the average attention span of a Gen Z is about 8 seconds!
  • They are socially aware and engaged. Gen Z’s are aware of social issues and even more focused than Millennials on having jobs that impact the world.
  • They expect their careers to span several companies. Like Millennials, Gen Z’s expect to work for an average of 4 companies over the course of their careers.
  • They have an entrepreneurial mindset. Nearly three-fourths of Gen Z’s want to own their businesses.
  • They like to self-educate. Ask a question and Gen Z’s will dive for their favorite device and Google the requested information in seconds. If they need to learn something they have no qualms about using internet resources to teach themselves.
  • They are aspirational but skeptical. They know they will have to work hard to succeed and about one-third would like to retire by the time they are 60-years old. But, less than 20% think that is achievable.

I saw and experienced all these characteristics play out in my class:

  • I think the average student carried two screen devices with them at all times. Their smartphone was the go-to device for convenience but they would break out the iPad or laptop for serious research.
  • I expected the short attention span issue because I saw it last semester. I tried to break up my three-hour class into shorter chunks that included a mix of lecture, role-plays, Q & A, quizzes with discussion, and a break. Even so, I could sense I was stretching their ability to focus. I thought about taking the class outside on the campus lawn, but figured I’d lose them even faster!
  • I noted that several of the students were already involved as volunteers in a variety of social causes. As I discussed potential companies for careers with several students it was clear they were most interested in companies who had a strong social responsibility presence.
  • The entrepreneurial versus the big company career question did not seem to cause a concern. Several of the students expressed an interest in working for a large company or two to learn certain skills and then strike out on their own. Whether as leaders in big companies or as owners of their own smaller businesses, it was clear these folks want to be in a position to influence others!
  • I split the class into small groups and asked questions for a case study that required internet research. Within minutes, these folks had divided up the task, visited a variety of relevant websites, gathered information, and synthesized it so that it could be reported back to the rest of the class.
  • The one somewhat somber point that arose during the semester with some students is the fact that they see themselves as having to work harder to be successful than their predecessors, with a low likelihood of being able to enjoy a long retirement.

Lessons for Leaders

Some of the lessons important for leading Gen Z’s are similar to those I noted last year for the Millennials:

  • Short attention spans mean leaders need to be careful to design work for Gen Z’s that will keep them engaged and productive.
  • Given Gen Z’s fondness for any electronic device with a screen, it makes sense to leverage this skill set for research and learning tasks.
  • Large companies need to offer a variety of career paths to keep the Gen Z’s happy. Convince them they can get all the experience they need right where they are or pretty soon you’ll be looking for their replacement.
  • Large companies also need to integrate social responsibility efforts where it makes sense and give their employees a chance to contribute as volunteers.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Which of these seven insights resonates with you? What advice do you have for leaders of Gen Z’s??

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Skills | Human Resource Development

 

 

 

 

 

 

#141: The Four Critical Roles of a Sales Manager

That are important for every manager!

Responding to a survey question “What business discipline would you like to learn more about?” the number one response of business people was Sales Management. The respondents were the usual mix of upper and lower managers in large and small companies representing most corporate functions.

Critical Roles of Sales Manager

Why the interest in sales management? Part of the answer is that some of the respondents are sales managers who want to become more effective, while others see sales management as part of their career path. Many of the general management group wanted to learn how to lead and manage sales managers.

A quick search on Amazon yields over 75,000 titles confirming there is a lot of interest in learning how to be a better sales manager.

The Four Critical Roles of a Sales Manager

Sales manager are faced with some unique challenges. First of all, the type of people they manage. Sales people are by nature outgoing, socially driven egocentrics. These characteristics translate into employees that are individualists who are most concerned with their own personal production. In today’ business environment where building “teams” is all the rage, the salesman is perhaps the most difficult convert. Second, the sales manager is often half-field based and half-corporate, resulting in a less than complete exposure to overall corporate functions.

What exactly is the role of a sales manager in today’s business environment? While the answer varies by industry, here are four roles of sales managers in almost all businesses:

  • Deliver expected results on time and on budget.
  • Represent the needs of the sales department back to the company.
  • Identify and solve problems.
  • Train and develop personnel.

Let’s review each of these in more detail.

Deliver Expected Results

The ability to meet commitments in any organization is important, and that is especially true for the sales manager.

Here are just a few of the areas where a sales manager is expected to deliver results:

  • To the company, sales managers are responsible for delivering volume, at specific prices (or profit levels), on certain timing, and they are responsible for the reports that general management uses to make decisions.
  • To their employees, sales managers are responsible for delivering needed training and development, support with customers, and accurate, timely information with which to sell.
  • To the customers, sales managers are responsible for delivering fair and equitable offers across all customers, and insuring the sales force deals with them in good faith.

Represent the Sales Department

The sales manager supplies a critical communication link between the field sales organization and the corporate sales office. Like a filter, the sales manager controls what goes up the organization and what goes down. This role is especially important in large, multi-layered organizations.

The reason is more management layers result in more information sent to and requested from sales. It is not unusual for manufacturing, product supply, marketing, and even finance departments to want input from sales.

In smaller organization these departments may see sales people as a matter of course, but in the large organizations spread out across the U.S. or the world, that rarely happens. The sales manager ends up acting as a filter for requests for information – otherwise the sales force will spend most of their time filling out reports instead of selling.

The sales manager also controls field visits. Headquarter people often want live sales input. While this is valuable, it can become a productivity problem for the sales force. The sales manager needs to control the number of visits, make sure there is a real need for live contact, that the right people are involved, and that the timing is not disruptive to the sales force.

The sales manager also filters information from field sales directed back to corporate. Sales people are not a bashful lot. They have a lot of ideas for products, promotions, etc. They are the closest link to the customer, so they are in tune with the market. From all these ideas are some real gems that will increase efficiency, reduce costs, lead to significant product improvements, or even whole new lines of products. As this information filters up to the sales manager, he or she provides additional perspective and should support ideas that are worth a trial.

Identify and Solve Problems

The ability to identify and solve problem is a skill required of any successful manager. While there are many potential problem areas that would involve the sales manager, here are a few of the most common:

  • Problems from corporate; issues with sales volume, budgets, or manufacturing capacity.
  • Problems from field sales; personnel, product availability, product not meeting specifications, or competitive problems like pricing, product lineup, etc.
  • Problems from customers; issues of product not meeting order specifications, not delivered on time, or priced incorrectly.

Knowing where the problems come from is just the beginning. The real skill is projecting what problems are likely to arise in the future, and create solutions ahead of time.

Train and Develop Personnel

Perhaps the most important role of a sales manager is to train and develop personnel. Like parents raising children, training and developing good employees is the legacy we leave behind long after we are gone. In the case of a corporation, the legacy of well-trained employees is what insures the future success of the company. Richard Deupree (retired chairman of Procter & Gamble) once said, “If you leave us our money, our buildings, and our brands but take away our people, the company will fail. But if you take away our money, our buildings, and our brands, but leave us all of our people, we can rebuild the whole thing in a decade.”

One Final Thought

Psalm 37 provides some excellent advice for us as we face the daily challenge of being good employees, spouses, and parents: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” (Psalms 37:4, 5, 7, 11 NIV).

Delight in what the Lord brings into your life. All things work together for good for those who love the Lord. Remember that God is in control, not you. Commit your life, including your work, to Him. If you will wait on the Lord and trust in him, you will have peace in your heart and less stress in your life.

Finally, stay focused on the Lord. Through all the trials and tribulations of life, do not be tempted to cut corners or compromise your integrity. Do not be envious of deceitful men who prosper, they will all reap what they have sown.

Bonus Whitepaper

If you would like a broader discussion on this topic, download the free 11-page whitepaper, The Four Critical Roles of a Sales Manager.” It includes:

  1. A broader discussion of the four critical roles of a sales manager.
  2. 5-skill sets/attributes you need to have to be an effective sales manager.
  3. Meeting Notes. A guide to help you conduct a meeting with your staff to establish yourself as the leader and set expectations.
  4. Executive Summary of action keys for the sales manager.
  5. Cases in real life. A newly appointed sales manager tries to establish himself and build a team.
  6. Executive Spotlight. An interview with an executive about God’s impact on him and his business.
  7. Some great inspirational Bible quotes about courage, tact, wisdom, strength, and determination.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Which of these roles is most important in your organization (regardless of whether it is as a sales manager), and why?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

Category: Skill Development | Human Resource Development

#117: 5 Things I learned about building an organization from teaching a college class

My career in the P&G organization gave me exposure to some of the best training available, and I like to think that as trainers go I was reasonably effective, but since January, I learned you’re never too old to improve.

Organization, Class

For the past 17 weeks, I was privileged to teach a class in Sales and Sales Management at a local university. I taught the same class last year. That group of 18 students was dwarfed by this year’s class of 33.

My class this year taught me a lot about effective training and development that has direct application to how we train and develop employees.

Here are five things I learned from the class this year that will help you build your organization:

1) Size matters. One of the important objectives in my class is to have a high level of student engagement in the form of questions and discussion. Last year’s smaller class had a couple of people who tended to start discussions, and that led others into engaging. However, with the larger class, it was much more difficult to get the level of engagement I desired. Even with a couple of outgoing people, it wasn’t enough to open the discussion floodgates.

Lesson for us. If you are leading a group of people, and you really want to engage your employees in a robust discussion, do it in smaller groups. You may have to have several smaller group discussions to engage with everyone, but it will lead to far more robust discussions, and that will help you build your organization.

2) Lectures are boring. The class is three hours long. In the average class, I spent about 90 minutes in lecture time covering two chapters, with a break in-between chapters. The rest of the time is taken up with a quiz and case discussion.  As brilliant as I am as a lecturer, covering the same material as they read in the textbook, led some students to disengage. The one thing students did appreciate was stories and examples from real life that underscored and reinforced the teaching.

Lesson for us. People don’t learn when they are bored. If you are leading a training session in your organization don’t be boringly repetitive like I was. Make your lecture time stand apart and reinforce the learning. Tell stories or give real-life examples to bring the academic to life.

3) Practice is fun. The feedback from the class indicated that some of the most helpful times were when we conducted role-playing exercises designed to put into practice some aspect of the teaching. The entire class would observe as students took turns in a role play. That brought real meaning to the teaching; they suddenly had to do what they had read in the textbook. There is a big difference between reading about handling buyer objections and actually doing it!

Lesson for us. If your training involves an action you want employees to learn, then find a way to let them practice. Even though it is just a role-play people will learn far more from practicing. I’m going to add a lot more role-play practice into my class next year.

4) Some people are more determined to succeed than others. The first night of class I asked every student to fill out a card with some basic information including what grade they hoped to achieve in the class. Part of my job as their instructor is to help them achieve their goal. Not surprising the vast majority of students hoped to earn an “A”. Not everyone achieved their goal grade.

Lesson for us. In every organization, there are employees who will step-up and do what it takes to succeed, to achieve their goals. The hard truth is as much as some employees want to climb the ladder, they aren’t willing to do what it takes to earn it. As a leader, the best thing you can do is help people find work opportunities where their passions will help them reach the level of success they deserve.

5) Be sensitive to special situations. Several members of the class were faced with very difficult personal situations over the course of the semester. Some were athletes in the midst of challenging competitions. Some were involved in other activities that helped them grow as individuals and leaders in their field. The point is people have a lot on their plates, and yes, you could be hard-nosed about your company and your work being more important than anything else. But really, what will you gain by being a jerk, versus what will you gain by supporting people who are dealing with personal difficulties encouraging? What will you gain by encouraging people to develop personally and professionally?

Lesson for us. In a group of any size, there are bound to be issues that affect some employee’s personal performance. Be sensitive to their needs. Be understanding and help an employee through a difficult time. Encourage them to grow and develop. The end result will be better, more loyal employees.

Join the conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Which of these five lessons resonates with you? What advice do you have to increase the effectiveness of training?

I’d love your help. This blog is read primarily because people like you share it with friends. Would you share it by pressing one of the share buttons below?

 

Category: Skills | Human Resource Development

#076: Are Performance Reviews Critical To Business, Or Worthless Paper?

Take a survey of the activities executives like the most in their jobs and performance appraisals of employees won’t be in the top 10, or even the top 20. In fact, if you ask most managers to describe their job-related duties chances are they won’t even mention employee performance reviews.

Performance Review

Most managers hate doing performance appraisals so much they’ll skip the entire process if they think they can get away with it.

If forced to complete the process, they typically save them all up until just before they are due and then run through all their employees one after another. They complete the forms, forward them to their boss, and forget about the process until reviews are due again next year.

Why is it that managers and employees dread the performance review? The list is long and varied:

  • the review is a complaint session in which a manager’s candor becomes a weapon to crush rather than build up an employee,
  • managers bring up gripes from all year and dump them on the employee,
  • managers and employees don’t view situations in the work history the same and no one can remember what really happened,
  • nothing ever changes as a result of the session so people view them as a waste of time, and
  • most performance review systems are highly subjective with standards that vary from boss to boss, and from one employee to another.

Here are twelve tips to make sure performance reviews in your organization are productive:

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